I’ll level with you early: it’s splendid. Really, this is a terrific car.
For one, it’s still as easy to live with as it ever was. Visibility is good for a mid-engined car, and the interior is lovely in the way Audi knows how interiors should be. Ergonomically it’s sound and the all-digital instrument binnacle is crisp and clear, which lets the rest of the dash be clean, too.
There are two seats only, with a small shelf behind that I suspect can take golf clubs if you have to. The engine is in the middle so there’s a small boot at the front. And it rides well enough to push most road lumps out of the way. In fact, it probably rides as well as a Porsche 911 Turbo, and I suspect better than a Mercedes-AMG GT or Aston Martin Vantage.
Right, that’s the obligatory sensible bit out of the way. The V10 engine is a mega piece of kit. On start-up it’s rather antisocial. In fact, it is most of the time, but that’s the rub if you want a car which makes peak torque at 6500rpm and peak power at 8250rpm on the way to an 8500rpm red line. And, you know, I rather like a car that has one of those, especially when it’s naturally aspirated and has a superb throttle response and hard, hollow noise – increasingly so if you put the drive modes (of which, inevitably, there are several) into their grumpiest settings and turn up the exhaust. The seven-speed dual-clutch ’box is as slick as we’ve come to expect them to be, and if you listen carefully there’s a lovely pneumatic-sounding ‘pssht’ on downshifts, a bit like a racing car. Goody.
And it handles. Our route involved some roads in southern Portugal – mostly well surfaced – and the superb Portimao race circuit. I fear the ESP-off button was disabled on the cars we used on track, leaving that safety net in place, but in the most liberated drive mode the R8 still allows a little slip at either end. Enough to tell you that, yes, like a Lamborghini Huracán, there’s a touch of stabilising understeer early in a corner; but also that the R8 has a degree of throttle adjustability and agility that the Huracán can only wish for. Keep the nose planted on turn-in by trailing the brakes into a bend and the Audi is inclined to pivot around its middle, just like the old one did, and drive its way out on the throttle. The brakes – carbon-ceramics discs as standard on the Plus – are superb, too.
What’s not so good? Not a lot. Our test car had dynamic steering – the system that gives you quicker steering at lower speeds than at higher speeds. These systems are getting better, and they work – the R8 is stable on a motorway and feels agile at manoeuvring speeds – but they still don’t supply a natural feel. A 911’s rack is better.